For many people around the world, alcohol is an easy and legal substance that makes them feel good quickly. But while the occasional drink here and there is usually safe, drinking in excess can be serious and even life-threatening. But how can something found on shelves at grocery stores across the globe be bad for you? In this article, we’ll discuss how alcohol works in the body, what the signs of alcohol poisoning are, and how you can get help.
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Drinking more than the recommended two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women can increase a person’s chance of having alcohol poisoning. This is because ethanol—a highly flammable chemical lacking in color— acts as a depressant in your brain. Introducing a toxic amount of alcohol into your system results in your body not being able to function correctly.
Ethanol is a tiny molecule that easily passes through nearly impenetrable capillaries in your brain called the blood-brain barrier because of its small size. Additionally, alcohol slows down the function of nerve cells by interacting with your brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers your nervous system uses to communicate with nerve cells and muscles.
Your body has many different neurotransmitters, but alcohol primarily affects three: GABA, glutamate, and dopamine.
- Alcohol increases GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces the electrical activity in your brain and causes it to slow down.
- Alcohol reduces glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter that, when decreased, causes the body to lag.
- Alcohol increases dopamine, your brain’s reward center, and is the reason you feel pleasure.
Unusual levels of GABA and glutamate contribute to a person’s slurred speech and lack of coordination, while high dopamine levels make them feel blissful. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions by muddling the communication between two areas in the brain: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. When the connection between those two areas goes awry, it can cause an individual to engage in risky behavior. This includes drinking more than the body can handle before the signs of alcohol poisoning become apparent.
The Effects of Alcohol Poisoning
To reiterate, overconsuming, or binging, alcohol in a short period is what leads to alcohol poisoning. Too much alcohol too quickly can cause your brain to shut down the areas responsible for essential life functions. The brainstem connects the front of the brain (cerebrum) to the spinal cord through an opening at the end of your skull. There are three sections that make up the brainstem: the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata.
The medulla oblongata is sandwiched between the bottom of the brainstem and the spinal cord and is responsible for keeping you alive. Without proper medulla regulation, the brain will begin shutting down or quieting the areas necessary for survival.
These areas include the following:
- Heart rate
- Blood flow
- Temperature regulation
- Oxygen levels
- Carbon dioxide levels
If this happens, a person is experiencing an alcohol overdose. Unfortunately, overdosing on alcohol can result in permanent brain damage or even death. From 2010-2012, an average of six people per day died from alcohol poisoning in the U.S. This is because alcohol is a legal and easily accessible psychoactive substance.
Signs of alcohol poisoning to watch for:
- Low body temperature
- Trouble staying awake
- Responses diminished
- Clammy skin
- Blue-tinged skin
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Slow pulse
If you believe someone is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
How to Help Someone Experiencing an Overdose
Witnessing a person showing signs of alcohol poisoning can be incredibly frightening, especially if you’ve never seen anything like it. If you suspect someone is experiencing an alcohol overdose, taking action and seeking medical help is essential.
Below are some steps you can take to help someone who is overdosing:
- Dial 911 for emergency medical assistance: If you are on the line with a 911 operator, it is crucial to remain calm so they can talk you through what to do until help arrives. The operator will ask you various questions, so you must stay on the line and provide them with as much information as possible, including the person’s age, weight, and any medications or substances they may have taken.
- Stay with the person: Stay with the individual displaying signs of alcohol poisoning until medical help arrives. Try to keep them awake or alert by talking to them.
- Keep the person safe: If the person is unconscious, turning them so that they’re lying on their side will prevent them from choking on vomit. In addition, if they are having trouble breathing, try to keep their airway clear.
It’s vital to remember that an alcohol overdose can be a life-threatening emergency, and seeking immediate medical help can prevent an alcohol-related death.
Recovering After an Alcohol Overdose
If you have noticed the signs of alcohol poisoning in a friend or family member, The Willough at Naples‘ rehab center can help. This beautiful Florida establishment provides a variety of safe and comfortable treatment services so you can start the healing process.
Medically detoxing from alcohol at an accredited rehab center is the safest way to detox because patients are under 24/7 supervision. The trained medical doctors and addiction specialists at The Willough at Naples can identify and treat any complications, including seizures or delirium tremens, that might arise during the detoxification process. In addition, our knowledgeable physicians and health care staff are here to assist you with any questions or concerns you might have regarding withdrawal symptoms, including:
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tremors or shaking
Florida detox centers like The Willough at Naples can help alleviate the less threatening withdrawal effects. For this reason, medical detox is usually the first step for most patients experiencing signs of alcohol poisoning.
After detoxing from drugs or alcohol, many patients participate in our dual diagnosis program to treat a co-occurring disorder (comorbidity). A co-occurring disorder refers to the presence of a mental health disorder and drug or alcohol use disorder in an individual. Unfortunately, these disorders can interact with each other and complicate treatment.
However, the dual diagnosis treatment program at The Willough at Naples helps people get to the root of their issues. Furthermore, figuring out the real reason behind an alcohol addiction helps patients get the proper care they need.
This comes in the form of evidence-based treatment options such as:
- Psychiatric evaluations
- Individual therapy
- Group sessions
- Family therapy
- Nutritional sessions
- Recreational therapy
- Medication management
- Relapse prevention
The staff at The Willough at Naples puts your emotional and physical well-being first. We will teach you the signs of alcohol poisoning so that you can be successful on your recovery journey.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Florida
Now that you know what the signs of alcohol poisoning are, you can take the first steps to achieving long-term mental and behavioral health. To learn more about how we can help you overcome your addiction, contact our admissions office by calling 800-722-0100 or submit a confidential contact form online.